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This eight-day cruise from Gorantalo in North Sulawesi to the Togian (Togean) Islands and back, provides a fantastic opportunity for bird-watching in this extraordinarily beautiful and remote part of Indonesia. The Togian Islands are a picturesque archipelago of 56 islands and inlets, located in the Tomini Bay. Formed by volcanic activity, the islands are covered by lush rainforest and surrounded by ancient coral reef formations. Both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems teem with exotic wildlife – much of which is extremely rare or endangered. The reefs and coastal areas provide habitat and breeding areas for hawksbill turtle, the green turtle and the dugong. Togian skies and wild jungles are filled with exotic birds such as the Sulawesi hornbill, the Togian boobook, the White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Kites, Eagles, Kingfishers, Hanging Parrots, the Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, the Yellow-billed Malkoha, and the Pied Cuckooshrike to name but a few. Within this tropical paradise, 37 villages of several ethnicities provide bright spots of gaiety and culture, including the Bajau or sea gypsies. All are happy to see visitors and are exceptionally hospitable.
Every day from dawn till midday we will be bird watching and trekking on the various islands in the company of professional spotters. In the afternoons there will be opportunities to do some snorkelling on the colourful coral reefs and to visit remote villages in the area, but of course, the afternoons can also be a time for trekking and bird watching ashore. The itinerary will be as follows, but please be aware that some changes might be made.
Endemic birds of the Togian Islands include: the Togian White Eye, Togian Boobook and Togian Golden Bulbul. Many other birds on the islands are endemic to the Sulawesi-area, like the Maleo, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Hawk Eagle, Sulawesi Goshawk, Small Sparrowhawk, Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Blue-faced Rail, Isabelline Bush-Hen, White-faced Cuckoo-Dove, Sulawesi Ground-Dove, Maroon-chinned Fruit-Dove, White-bellied Imperial-Pigeon, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, Bay Coucal, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Black-billed Koel, Sulawesi Masked-Owl, Sulawesi Scops-Owl, Speckled Boobook, Sulawesi Nightjar, Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Hornbill, Sulawesi Dwarf-Kingfisher, Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher, Great-billed King-fisher, Green-backed Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, Purple-bearded Bee-Eater, Purple-winged Roller, Sulawesi Woodpecker, Golden-mantled Racquet-Tail, Yellow-breasted Racquet-Tail, Ornate Lorikeet, Sulawesi Hanging-Parrot, Sulawesi Myzomela, Ivory-backed Woodswallow, Pied Cuckoo-shrike, White-rumped Cuckoo-shrike, White-rumped Triller, Sulawesi Cicadabird, Sulawesi Drongo, Sulawesi Blue-Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Flycatcher, Rusty-backed Thrush, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Pale-headed Munia. But of course there are many, many other Indonesian-birds that can be seen in the area as well.
Note: This is a first-time exploratory trip for SeaTrek, and as such it is reflected in the lower than normal price of the tour, but we will have professional guides on board to help us find the best locations and as many birds as possible en route. Please be aware that the itinerary may be subject to change due to tides, weather conditions or harbour restrictions.
Note: The price of this cruise does not include any domestic airfares to and from our start and end points, however, our reservations specialists in Bali are more than happy to help arrange domestic flights on your behalf and advise on scheduling. We book hundreds of flights each year on behalf of our guests and we know the best routes to take to ensure you arrive on time. We only book with IATA-approved airlines that have met with international standards of safety and dependability. Except for Bali, transfers to and from local airports to the boat are also included. If you are booking flights by yourself, do not book any flights before checking with us first. Our first and last day programmes rely on strict time scheduling, so please confirm with us to ensure that you arrive and depart at your destination with plenty of time to spare and to avoid disruption to other guests' schedules.
Around 1pm, you will be met at the airport and transferred to Gorontalo Harbour where our beautiful boat, the Katharina will be waiting. En route, we will visit the Portuguese-built Fort Otanaha, from where we will have a stunning view of the vast Limboto Lake and parts of the city of Gorontalo. With any luck there will be some Black Eagles and Black Kites flying around, while Yellow-billed Malkohas and Crimson-crowned Flowerpeckers may be hopping in the trees. After embarking the Katharina in the late afternoon we will depart straight away for Pulau Togian (Pulau is the Indonesian word for island), the centre of the Togian Archipelago. We will cruise overnight to our destination.
From early morning we will go trekking and bird-watching near Tobil village on the north side of Pulau Togian. Late morning we may visit the nearby lake, Danau Mariona, to snorkel with thousands of multi-hued stingless jellyfish, it still remains a mystery as to how this lake was formed, yet it is a fascinating experience. If time allows we can also try some snorkelling from the stunning Karina Beach, just next to the Jellyfish Lake. In the afternoon we can do another bird watching walk on the small island Batongo, in front of Pulau Togian. In the evening we will sail to the north-west side of Pulau Batudaka.
In the morning we can enjoy an easy trek within the surroundings of Tumbulawa village on Pulau Batudaka, where we can expect to see quite a variety of birds. In the afternoon there will be the opportunity for some more bird watching in the area, but those who prefer to go snorkelling can do so at the beautiful Tumbulawa Reef, which is nearby. In the evening we will cross to Pulau Una Una.
Setting out at dawn on Pulau Una Una, we will start climbing Gunung Colo volcano (highest point Sakora Peak 507m, southwest crater 235m), and encounter two small lakes – one with fresh cold water and the other with boiling hot water surrounded by lots of geothermal activity. On the way we will spot a variety of Indonesian birds. In the afternoon we can visit a very nice snorkelling spot on the north-west side of Pulau Una Una. But those who prefer to go bird watching are of course free to take another walk in the jungle. In the evening we will cross over to Pulau Malenge.
We will set out at dawn for a long bird watching excursion on Pulau Malenge. We will start our walk from the north side of the island, and end up at Tanjung Malenge on the south side. If time allows we can visit the small Bajau village built on nearby Pulau Papan, and walk to Pulau Malenge along a wooden bridge hundreds of metres long. In the afternoon we will take the dinghies to go snorkelling at the famous California Reef, north of Pulau Malenge. Another short jungle walk on the north side of the island is also a possibility. In the evening we will cruise to Pulau Talatakoh.
Early morning will find us bird watching and trekking near the village of Kalia on the east side of Pulau Talatakoh. At the end of the morning we can, if time allows, visit the big sea gypsy village of Kabalutan in the middle of the sea on the south side of the island. These are the Bajau people who build their homes on stilts over the sea. In Kabalutan we will get a glimpse of how the formerly nomadic Bajau have adapted to life in a static village. In the afternoon we can go snorkelling at another part of the California Reef, this time at the north side of Pulau Waleakodi. Those who prefer another birding session can do so on this island.
Early morning we will be bird watching and trekking on the north side of Pulau Togian. We will probably start in the village of Baulu and walk to the village of Matobiai or Kaputat. In the afternoon we will have a last snorkelling opportunity at the very best spot of the California Reef on the north-west side of Pulau Malenge. In the evening we will have our farewell party with the crew of the Katharina at the beach or on board. During the night we will cruise to our final destination: the harbour of Gorontalo.
After breakfast we will bid farewell to the crew and the Katharina – our beautiful sea-based home for the last 8 days. We will take the tenders ashore and you will be transferred to Gorontalo Airport for your return flights to Bali, Jakarta or beyond.
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Dr. Kees Groeneboer
A linguist, historian and 30-year resident of Jakarta, Dr. Kees Groeneboer is passionate about the spectacular birdlife of his adopted homeland. He has travelled extensively though Indonesia’s eastern isles on countless missions to see, hear, and identify as many as possible of these graceful, colourful and often-endangered denizens of the forests and the cliffs. He often shares his enthusiasm with others by leading specialist bird-watching cruises aboard the Katharina during which he embellishes his bird expertise with his in-depth knowledge of Indonesian history and culture. He is published on language policy and has a PhD in the history of the Dutch colonial policy in Indonesia from 1600 onwards.